What’s for Dinner? (Hint: It’s from a can!)

December 02, 2011Leave a comment

Is it the most wonderful time of the year? Well, maybe. It can certainly be the most stressful. But it needn’t be and I’m trying to figure out how to take the edge off the holiday madness. A little less shopping, fewer commitments and a discerning review before accepting every party invitation that comes my way. I’ll let you know how it goes. Every year I aim to spend less and enjoy more –  and then proceed to do the exact opposite. Don’t we all?

With all the parties and celebrations, it seems that meals at home should be simpler than ever. One way to do this is to turn to wisely-chosen processed foods. Yes, that’s right. For all the bad press processed foods get, I’m here to tell you they’re not all created equal and some of them are not only time-saving, but also nutritional powerhouses.

So what exactly is a “processed” food? It’s anything that has been altered from its original state. If it’s been cooked, frozen, dried or mixed with other ingredients, it is by definition processed. The notion of minimizing processed foods is a good one when it applies to items like corn chips or packaged granola bars. A sound rule of thumb is to check the label on these items and count the ingredients. The fewer the better. Even more importantly, can you pronounce the ingredient names and are they items you’d have in your own pantry? Olive oil, for sure. Partially hydrogenated soybean oil, not so much. You get the idea.

There are quite a few middle aisle (i.e. not fresh or frozen, as found on the perimeter of the store) “processed” foods that are a boon to simple cooking, adding both flavor and nutritional heft. Each of this week’s recipes include examples of these items. Canned beans and tomatoes are right at the top of that list. Be sure to check out the white bean soup recipe, made using canned beans and tomatoes as well as the vegetable stock I posted earlier this week. Whole grain cereals, pastas and brown rice products are also winners. Don’t forget about nut butters (again, check the labels, as there is a wide range from good to practically a candy bar in this category) and whole nuts, which add texture and healthy fat.

Finally, getting through this hectic season requires forgiveness. At least for me it does. I have included a classic comfort food this week as a reminder that we all need a little extra care this time of year. (And guess what? It includes canned tuna!) Forgive yourself for your own foibles – you didn’t get a gift for someone you should have, you drank a tad much eggnog at the company holiday party, you lashed out at your children for learning to juggle with your heirloom ornaments. It’s okay, really. And try to forgive those around you and let go. You’ll feel so much better with a belly full of warm, comforting food and kindness in your heart, don’t you think?

What’s in Season?

Brussels Sprouts | Carrots | Kale | Oranges | Rosemary

What’s for Dinner?

The List

1 yellow onion
1 carrot
2 celery stalks
7 cloves garlic
Fresh rosemary
1 lemon
1 orange
2 scallions

Pearled barley
Vegetable stock
Chicken stock
15 oz. can cannellini beans
15 oz. can chickpeas
28 oz. can peeled plum tomatoes
1 pound campanelle (or other short pasta)
2 – 6 oz. cans oil-packed tuna
Whole wheat panko
Golden raisins

Bacon (making its weekly list debut!)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Parmesan cheese
Frozen peas
Skim milk
4 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. 2% Greek yogurt

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